Novartis delivered strong performance in 2019,1 driven by accelerating sales in key products and successful new launches. Our results underscore the strength of our innovation and the progress we have made in transforming Novartis into a focused medicines company.
1 The commentary focuses on continuing operations and excludes the performance of Alcon, which was spun off to Novartis AG shareholders on April 9, 2019.
Strong sales of key products and successful new launches bolstered our performance in 2019. Novartis net sales were USD 47.4 billion in our continuing operations, rising 9% from the prior year when measured in constant currencies (cc) to remove the impact of exchange rate movements. We had 15 products with annual sales of USD 1 billion or more.
Products that we consider our key growth drivers continued to underpin our performance. These include Cosentyx, our treatment for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases, which showed strong results across indications and regions: Sales rose 28% (cc) from the prior year to USD 3.6 billion. Entresto, a treatment for heart failure that has been used to treat more than 1.4 million patients worldwide, further solidified its position with sales of USD 1.7 billion, an increase of 71% (cc).
Promacta, a treatment for blood disorders that is known as Revolade outside the US, grew 23% (cc) to USD 1.4 billion. Tafinlar + Mekinist, a combination treatment for skin and lung cancers, increased 20% (cc) to USD 1.3 billion. Jakavi, a treatment for blood disorders and cancers, grew 20% (cc) to USD 1.1 billion, achieving blockbuster status for the first time. Kisqali, a breast cancer treatment, had sales of USD 480 million, up 111 % (cc). Meanwhile, Lutathera, a radioligand therapy for a rare type of cancer in the pancreas or gut, registered USD 441 million in sales in its first full year after launch.
We also saw significant contributions in 2019 from newly launched or acquired products. Piqray, a breast cancer medicine, registered sales of USD 116 million. Zolgensma, a breakthrough gene therapy for children with spinal muscular atrophy, had sales of USD 361 million. Xiidra, a treatment for dry eye disease that we acquired in July, contributed USD 192 million to sales. Beovu, a treatment for neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration that was approved in October, started well with sales of USD 35 million.
Sales of Sandoz biopharmaceuticals increased 16% (cc) to USD 1.6 billion. Biopharmaceuticals include biosimilars, which are less expensive follow-on versions of complex biologic drugs that are being embraced by healthcare systems, particularly in Europe.
In Europe, our largest market, Novartis sales grew 10% (cc). Sales in the US rose 11%. Sales in emerging growth markets grew 10% (cc), led by a double-digit increase in China.
Operating income was USD 9.1 billion, up 14% (cc) from the prior year, mainly driven by higher sales and improved productivity, but partly offset by increased investment in marketing and sales and provisions for legal settlements. Net income of USD 7.1 billion declined 41% (cc), reflecting a large net gain in 2018 from the sale of our stake in a consumer health joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline. Earnings per share were USD 3.12.
To help people understand our underlying performance, we also present our core results, which exclude the impact of amortization, restructurings, acquisitions and other significant items. Core operating income of USD 14.1 billion rose 17% (cc). Core net income of USD 12.1 billion rose 15% (cc). Core earnings per share were USD 5.28, up 17% (cc). Free cash flow of USD 12.9 billion was up 15%.
For more detail on our financial performance, please see our Annual Report 2019 at www.novartis.com/annualreport2019